It’s not long now until our final festival engagement of the summer: The Good Life Experience – brainchild of Charlie and Caroline Gladstone, Cerys Matthews and Steve ‘Abbo’ Abbot – taking place on the Hawarden Estate, Flintshire, 16-18 September. Now in its third year, this will be our second time running a Caught by the River tent, featuring a daily programme of a unique variety, plus a book and record shop. Click here for tickets (code CBTR241 entitles our readers to a 2-4-1 offer.)
Big love as always to Roy Wilkinson for the marvellous artist bios which here follow:
Hailing from Liverpool, the three women of Stealing Sheep are pretty much on home turf at Good Life. Wonderful and sensual UK pop originals, they switch from psychedelic swoons to an analogue take on contemporary R&B. It makes complete sense that their collective influences range from Can to Gary Numan to the late New York composer Moondog, aka The Viking of 6th Avenue. (Listen here)
The Magnetic North
Their previous album was Orkney: Symphony Of The Magnetic North. Now we have Prospect Of Skelmersdale. This west Lancashire 1960s new town might lack Orkney’s remote wonder, but there’s more to Skem than housing estates. The town became the the UK home of the Transcendental Meditation movement, and The Magnetic North now mix kitchen-sink drama and urban psychogeography with meditative ragas. (Listen here)
Modern Studies’ music evokes the British landscape and comes courtesy of a rich cast. They consist of Edinburgh singer-songwriter Emily Scott, together with Rob St John and with Pete Harvey, the latter cellist and arranger for King Creosote. The magazine The Word gave the lowdown on Rob’s music: “A Lancastrian singer-songwriter with the profundity of Ian Curtis, Nick Drake and Stuart Staples, whose songs animate geography like Luke Haines’s do history.” Expect tracks from forthcoming album Swell To Great, plus, perhaps, impromptu lectures on local birdlife. (Listen here)
July Skies’ music is an indie-meteorological wunderkammer – mixing the evanescent sounds or Felt and Vini Reilly with a drifting drive through the British islands. Their self-declared points of departure include “Orford Ness, lost youth, Henry Moore, abandoned airfields, endless childhood summers…” Their album The Weather Clock was originally released in 1997 and was recently reissued by Rivertones, the CBTR phonographic arm. (Listen here)
Matt Sewell – artist in residence
Matt has built up a wunderbar repute with his stylish and stylised bird illustrations. His bird art has featured in several books and in the marketing literature of Chinese leading department stores. Lady Gaga has spoken repeatedly about her plan to have Matt’s illustration of a great bustard tattoo’d lifesized on her bonny back.
Hooton Tennis Club
This Wirral alt-rock quartet have recently finished their second album, produced by Edwyn Collins of Orange Juice and ornithological renown – a combo of geographical localism and nature-rock credentials that makes them perfect for the lush pastures of Good Life. Furthering the Cheshire-Scouse axis, their debut album was produced by Bill Ryder-Jones, ex of The Coral. (Listen here)
She comes from the remote New Zealand South Island port of Lyttelton and her stark, haunted folk stylings have drawn comparison to Vashti Bunyan. As her own website duly warns: “Not for the faint of heart… There are few happy endings.” Get ready for a rare emotive power and an austere grace that makes her seem more modernist than mere mellifluous campfire fodder. (Listen here)
Laura is based in East Anglia and her music draws on both the landscape and medieval music, incorporating wild-animal calls, ancient musical instruments and long-forgotten liturgical fragments. Her 2015 album Beneath Swooping Talons featured in The Guardian’s Top Experimental Albums of the year – and now her new album, Simultaneous Flight Movement, is about to join this fascinating sound world. (Listen here)
Ian is a mainstay at The London Sound Survey, a collaborative collection of field recordings made in and around London – places, people, wildlife and including descriptions of London sounds dating back as far as the 11th century. Here he presents ‘The Dictionary of Obscure Words’, with a second feature, ‘Sounds of London Life’ taking place on Sunday.
Earlier this year, Guardian writer and radio broadcaster Laura Barton presented the BBC Radio 4 series ‘Notes From a Musical Island’ – an exploration of the UK’s close relationship between music and landscape, from the rhythms of the industrial north to the music and clamour of London. At The Good Life Experience she will host a live version of the show, with a collection of musical friends and experts gathering to look at the music of North Wales.
The boldly-named ensemble Britain are a box-fresh duo from outrageous Preston – one young woman and one young man subtly blending elements of dream pop and post-punk by means of guitar, synth and drum machine. It’s early days, but their crisp machine-pop may yet fire them through this nation and across the sea.
Herefordshire-born historian, writer and farmer John Lewis-Stempel will be reading from his book The Running Hare: The Secret Life Of Farmland, a celebration of English wildlife and our agricultural landscape. “John Lewis-Stempel is one of the best nature writers of his generation,” said Country Life magazine.
Amy’s writing has been a regular feature on the CBTR website – indeed her first book, the recent memoir The Outrun, stems from her words for the site. In the book she tells how she escaped a booze-wrecked life in London by returning to the Orkney sheep farm where she grew up, recuperating surrounded by the sea. She appears in conversation with James Macdonald Lockhart.
James Macdonald Lockhart
James’s book Raptor: A Journey Through Birds won him The Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award for Non-Fiction and the Authors’ Foundation Roger Deakin Award. At Good Life James will talk about avian raptors in all their menace and majesty.
Poetry Hour: Will Burns/Martha Sprackland/John Clegg
A quality kru – Martha and Will are CBTR’s own poets-in-residence, whilst John is of local origin – born in Chester in 1986. His collection Antler surveys folktales and prehistoric landscapes and won the Eric Gregory Award.
Renowned nature sound-recordist Chris Watson has worked with David Attenborough and Bill Oddie and his Nature Disco has become a much-loved regular feature at Caught by the River festival stages – amazing sounds that range from pied flycatchers singing in Devon to vultures ripping apart a corpse.
Aussie sound artist Kate’s work has encompassed the Arctic Circle, Mexican rainforest and Icelandic fishing villages and has featured in galleries from London to New York. The Wire magazine detected “liquid sadness… Proustian ghostliness” in her recordings. She also runs the Flaming Pines label. Her album I Had Myself A Nuclear Spring has just been reissued on Rivertones. (Listen here)
The London Sound Survey
Presents ‘Sounds of London Life’ (see Saturday’s listing).
Rob will be reading from his book The Man Who Made Things Out Of Trees – the remarkable tale of one ash tree and what it became, from arrow shafts to canoe paddles. His previous book, the cycling-themed It’s All About The Bike, was a big favourite at Caught by the River.
Poetry Hour: Will Burns/Martha Sprackland/Sophie McKeand
Poet Sophie McKeand is from Yr Wyddgrug in north Wales and had been part of the Young People’s Laureate programme, working to increase literacy and communication skills in young people.
Howl at 60
Allen Ginsberg’s great incantatory beat poem Howl was first published 60 years ago – a big, wild blast on madness, Blake, Brando, the Bible and “alcohol and cock and endless balls”. We celebrate this event with a live invocation of this monumental work by actor/performer Ceri Murphy, fresh from triumphant performances at Edinburgh Festival. Introduced by Jeff Towns of Dylans Mobile Bookstore.
Heavenly Jukebox DJs play top quality tunes through to the small hours on both Friday night and Saturday night.
Master of Ceremonies for the weekend is the inimitable John Andrews.